Practical guide on EU emission rules

Light duty vehicles such as cars and vans account for roughly 15% of the European Union’s carbon dioxide emissions while heavy duty vehicles contribute 6%. CO2 is a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming and climate change. The EU since 2007, began implementing a strategy for a “comprehensive legal framework” to reduce carbon emissions and to comply with the Kyoto Protocol. In short, EU emission rules have become tougher with the ultimate aim of tightening target values by 2020.

EU emission standards at a glance

EU emission standards are categorised into several types applying to light vehicles from 1305 kg or below and 1305 kg to 1760 kg. Another standard is for light commercial vehicles of 1760 kg or up to a maximum of 3500 kg. Heavy-duty vehicles fall under a different group.

Each category has different tiers from the earliest known introduction of Euro 1 standards in 1992 to the planned enforcement of Euro 6 standards in 2014. Details can be found at the ec.europa.eu website.

It is not easy to understand all the technical jargon, so we summarised the major points for you.

  • Mandatory targets

1. cars

By 2015 - 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g CO2/Km)

By 2010 - 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g C02/km)

2. vans

By 2017 - 175 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g CO2/Km)

By 2020 - 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g CO2/Km)

3. heavy-duty vehicles

Lorries, trucks, and buses fall in this category and at present, the Commission is working on a strategy to reduce carbon emissions in both passenger and freight transport.

  • Compulsory labelling

In addition, EU member states are required to provide necessary information on fuel efficiency and carbon emissions to potential buyers. These include information posters and brochures showing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions data attached on the car or at the point of sale.

In the UK, car manufacturers agreed to put consumer-friendly labels making it easier to understand EU emission rules using colour coded charts and labels on new cars from A (<100 CO2 g/km) to F ( 186+ CO2 g/km) .

Controlling carbon emissions

While the EU emission rules apply to new cars registered from 2012 onwards, older vehicles will not be affected. Nor will they be taken off the road. Clearly, older vehicles have higher carbon emissions than new models fitted or made with better technologies. The EU is banking on lower fuel costs with new cars as an incentive for owners to make the switch and replace old clunkers. Moreover, member states apply disincentives such as higher road taxes for older vehicles.

On the manufacturing side, enforcement of EU emission rules is expected to stimulate research and development for alternative fuel vehicles and eco-innovations. 'Super credits' are also doled out when targets are met. The question remains, are these enough to control CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases as economies grow?

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